News / Asia

Cambodia Refuses to Seat Swiss Judge at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Cambodia Refuses to Seat Swiss Judge at Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Cambodia Refuses to Seat Swiss Judge at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

The United Nations says Cambodia is refusing to permit a Swiss investigating judge to take his place on the tribunal trying suspected Khmer Rouge war crimes, blocking at least two pending cases.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday the U.N. has been formally notified of Cambodia's decision not to appoint Swiss magistrate Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to the court.

The spokesman described the decision as a "matter of serious concern," and said it breaches the terms of the 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations that established the tribunal.

Kasper-Ansermet was to have filled a vacancy created by the departure of German judge Siegfried Blunt - who resigned late last year complaining of interference by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The tribunal has convicted a notorious Khmer Rouge prison warden and is hearing a second case involving three top former Khmer Rouge leaders. But as long as Blunt's post remains vacant, the court cannot bring anyone else to trial.

Blunt first came under criticism when a prosecutor complained last year that he and co-investigating magistrate You Bunleng had failed to properly investigate what have come to be known as Cases 003 and 004. Several international staff members also resigned to protest the handling of the cases.

Details of the two cases have never been officially released. Press reports, however, say both involve former Khmer Rouge military commanders who were allegedly complicit in the arrest, imprisonment and in some cases massacre of thousands of Cambodians.

Kasper-Ansermet has had his own problems with his Cambodian counterpart. Shortly after his arrival in Cambodia, he charged that You Bunleng was blocking him from releasing important information about the two suspended cases.

You Bunleng responded that Kasper-Ansermet was not yet legally accredited to the court and did not understand the legal principles of its work.

Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy met last week to decide whether to approve the Swiss jurist's appointment.  But U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told VOA's Khmer service this week that Cambodia was "under an obligation" to appoint the reserve judge when there is a vacancy.

A coalition of 23 Cambodian rights and relief groups went further. In a press release Thursday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee argued that Kasper-Ansermet was officially appointed when he was named a reserve magistrate and that he requires no further approval.

The group also called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the investigating judges, saying the legacy of the tribunal will be seriously damaged without one.

No such inquiry is planned, although the U.N. this week named American lawyer David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, to observe and advise on the court's work.

About 1.7 million Cambodians are believed to have died or been executed during the period of Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has argued that going ahead with more prosecutions would deeply divide Cambodian society, destabilizing the country.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs